Sports Betting - Understanding Money LinesFor beginning sports gamblers, money lines can often appear to be quite imposing, but once the essentials behind money lines are understood, they are just as easy, if not easier, to use as the point spread. While the point spread is concerned with who wins and by how much, the money line is solely interested in who wins.
The best way to explain the money line is to show an example of it in action, so we'll make up a hypothetical baseball game between the Cubs and the Dodgers. When looking at the odds for the game, the bettor will see something like:
Chicago Cubs +120
Los Angeles Dodgers -130
In this instance, the Dodgers are the favored team, as signified by the - (minus) written in front of the 130, while the Cubs are the underdogs, as designated by the + (plus) in front of the 120.
What these numbers mean is that those wishing to bet on the favorite, the Dodgers, will have to risk $130 to win $100, while those wanting to wager on the underdog, the Cubs, will risk $100 to win $120.
It's important to remember that even though money lines are expressed in units of $100, you do not have to bet that much money. The money line will work just as easily with a $5 or $10 wager as it does with a $100 bet.
When the Money Line is UsedThe money line is used for a number of sports where the point spread becomes irrelevant, such as boxing, tennis, and auto racing, as well as baseball, hockey, and soccer. While there are margins of victory in baseball, hockey, and soccer, they are so small it would be impossible to create a point spread for every game.
The difference between money line odds on the favorite and the underdog will normally increase as the likelihood of the favorite winning increases. For example, if the Yankees were playing the Devil Rays, we would probably see odds similar to:
Tampa Bay Devil Rays +190
New York Yankees -220
In this case a bettor would be required to risk $220 to win $100 by betting on the Yankees, while the Tampa Bay bettors would be risking $100 to win $190.
The difference between the two will continue to climb as the disparity between the favorite and the underdog increases. In a boxing match it would not be unusual to see odds such as:
Joe Louis -700
Ray Leonard +550
In this instance, those betting on Joe Louis are being asked to risk $700 to win $100, while Ray Leonard backers are risking $100 to win $550.
The reason for the shift in the difference between the odds is that bookmakers typically only make money when the underdog wins. In point spread betting, the bookie hopes to have an equal amount of money wagered on each team, which will guarantee a profit. In money line betting, the bookie realizes that more people are going to wager on the favorite, and can only hope to have enough wagered on the underdog to cover their potential losses on the favorite.
Using the Louis - Leonard fight as an example, the bookmaker knows more money is going to be wagered on Louis for the reason that his chances of winning are much greater than Leonard's. If bettors collectively wager $14,000 on Louis, the bookmaker hopes to receive $2,000 in wagers on Leonard. While the amount of money wagered on the two fighters is much different, the bookmaker has their bases covered.
If Louis wins as expected, the bookmaker will take the $2,000 from the losing Leonard bettors and pay off the winners. But if Leonard pulls off the upset and wins, the bookmaker will take the $14,000 from the losing Louis bettors and pay off $11,000 to the Leonard bettors and get to keep $3,000 for their effort.
Other Uses of the Money Line
Money line betting is generally offered on all sporting events, even those which use the point spread, such as football and basketball. While you can still bet with the point spread, using the money line simply gives the bettor another choice when deciding whether or not to make a wager.
There is no written rule of when a bettor should play the money line or when they should bet using the point spread, but there is an excellent article here at the Top Betting Reviews site looking at that very question. It's definitely worth your time to give it a read.